Review: PlayStation 5

Sony’s dominance with the PlayStation 4 this generation was crucial for the company. The PlayStation 3, while rebounded, struggled early on due to poor choices within the company, some of which contributed to the overpriced $599 US model. Fortunately, Sony came back strong at the end of that generation and it bled into this one, offering not only the most-powerful consoles available (at least until a couple of years ago), but the most accessible and less restrictive. Even to this day, Sony arguably offers the best first party titles on the market, inspiring creativity and passion from games such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, Ghost of Tsushima, God of War and so much more. With the next generation so close, Sony has sent us the PlayStation 5 to check out and our feelings are that of unbridled excitement. With competition even greater this time around, can Sony maintain their control on the console market and hit it out of the park a second time in a row?

Hardware/Performance

The PlayStation 5’s design is an interesting choice. I can see those who enjoy the look, while I myself think it’s a bit much. Its futuristic look does have its own appeal, but the problem is that it’s a colossal device that stands out in the wrong ways. It doesn’t help that the Blu-ray drive makes the system even less appeasing to the eyes, with the Digital Edition looking far sleeker, despite having a lot of the same issues. With the stand, it rises to 16 inches high, with a length of 10.5 inches and 3.5 inches in depth (16 x 10.5 x 3.5 inches). It weighs a staggering 10lbs, so you can get a good workout hauling this thing around. Fortunately, while the outside is a subjective matter, the insides are extraordinarily powerful.

  • CPU: 8-Core Custom Zen 2 @ 3.5 GHz
  • GPU: Custom RDNA 2 36 CUs @ 2.23 GHz (10.28 TFLOPS)
  • RAM: 16 GDDR6 256-bit
  • Memory Bandwidth: 448 GBps
  • SSD: Custom 825 GB NVMe
  • I/O Throughput: 5.5 GBps (Raw) / 9 GBps (Compressed)


Unfortunately, one of the biggest gripes with what comes in the package is that the HDMI 2.0 cable supplied is too short for its own good. At six feet, you won’t have a lot of wiggle room for movement or adjustability, unless of course your console is directly beside the HDMI connector on your TV. The storage space will become an issue the further you get into the generation, as only 825GB of space (666GB after system OS and Astro’s Playground) isn’t a lot of room, especially when games are becoming increasingly larger to the point they are hundreds of gigabytes. You can thankfully connect an external drive that will help with the current issues of PlayStation 4 game storage, but we’ll be eagerly awaiting to see what kind of official extended storage Sony has planned for the future.

On that point, one aspect I enjoy with the PlayStation 5 is that there’s an option in the storage menu that will allow you to automatically download any PlayStation 4 games to your external drive. With a positive there comes a negative, though, and the transfer model is retained from the PlayStation 4. This means that, say you want to transfer a game from your external drive to your internal or vice versa, you won’t be able to multitask and instead be stuck looking at a bar slowly move as the data is transferred. I had hoped Sony would have fixed this from the current generation, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Additionally, for whatever reason, you cannot have duplicate data on an external drive and the internal. So if you have a game on both at the same time, you will be forced to delete one.

One component that’s hugely beneficial this generation from all parties is noise reduction. If you have ever played a PlayStation 4 game, you’ll know that thing — especially now that we’re so late in the generation — can sound like a jet engine. It has become increasingly noticeable and on top of heating up your room, can be downright distracting. Fortunately, I can safely say, even running some of the more graphically-intense games (at least the couple we got to play thus far), we can barely hear the system running. The fans are ultra quiet, and it helps that the ventilation is well constructed on the top and back. The disc drive can be loud, but this is standard for any device.

Surprisingly, instead of charging users for a stand, Sony actually includes one with the console. This is a simple plastic stand that can be used vertically and horizontally. Oddly enough, it seems like the stand wasn’t specifically designed for the console to be laid horizontally as it’s barely being held on and is easily shaken loose when moving the console. Vertically, though, it works perfectly as you’re literally lightly screwing it into the bottom of the console. It just looks right when it’s standing up and the stand complements it. Outside of that, my only smaller gripe would be that I wish there was more than one USB connector on the front. The PlayStation 5 is a wonderfully-constructed console that will look good and run well in most player’s setups.


Controller

The DualSense is a remarkable device and probably my favorite new innovation to come out of the new generation thus far. As someone who enjoyed the DualShock 4 but preferred the overall shape and feel of the Xbox One controller, the DualSense looks to bridge the gap while adding its own additional features. The controller still maintains the symmetrical thumbstick design, has the standard 3.5mm jack for headphones and uses a USB-C connector – which thankfully the console comes with a cable. It’s much larger than the DualShock 4, having a similar meatier depth to say the Xbox One controller, and because of this is feels good in your hands. The triggers are deeper and squishier now, allowing for even more pressure points and the L1 & R1 buttons are even larger. The Share and Options buttons are popping out a little more than they were prior, even though they still require more pressure to press down than they should.

Not only does the controller feature a gyroscope sensor, but it also sports a microphone, the trademark touchpad, haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Let’s talk about the latter two in the controller. This is probably the biggest advantage Sony has over its competition, which is strange considering it was Microsoft that brought this to the forefront current generation. Not only does it have rumble in specific parts of the controller, but there are adaptive triggers that will require certain amounts of pressure based on what’s happening on screen and what the game is instructing you to do. For example, you could be taking a picture in Bugsnax, and instead of simply pressing down, the trigger will feel like it’s locked up, but really you just need to use a bit of extra force for it to go through with the action. Having tested Astro’s Playroom, you’ll get a good understanding of what this controller can do with this feature, not to mention all the rest.  It’s such a small thing on paper, but in practice you get to appreciate what it has to offer.

The grip on the back of the controller is a lot more appealing than it was on the DualShock 4, although I still wish it was little more rugged; it’s a light texture touch rather than a true grip. With that said, the fact it’s made up of borderline microscopic face buttons (triangle, circle, square and x) is a fantastic touch that should not go unappreciated. I’m not at all a fan of the ridged, flat edge at the bottom of the controller handles, as it’s dramatically different from the rest of the body and looks like someone just chopped the ends off. You’ll rarely be touching the bottom of the controller like this, but from an aesthetic component, it’s not the most appeasing part of the controller. The biggest complaint I have with the controller itself is the PlayStation button. On the DualShock 4, it was a circular button that was easy to press, but on the DualSense, it’s a physically-shaped PlayStation logo which doesn’t feel good or as responsive.


Launch Lineup

Here’s the big issue with both new consoles: they’re lacking a meaningful introduction. The PlayStation 5 arguably has the better of the two out of the gate, but that’s not saying much when it truly only has s couple major releases. We’ve been able to play through Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Astro’s Playroom, with our impressions of other first-party titles such as Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Demon’s Souls coming closer to launch.

  • Demon’s Souls
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Sackboy: A Big Adventure
  • Astro’s Playroom

Demon’s Souls is arguably of the biggest launch title of the bunch, only because it’s the only true next-generation game coming out this year. Even though it’s a Bluepoint Games remake and not FromSoftware, it’s of the 2009 classic that kicked off the Souls franchise, so there’s not a whole lot to dislike. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is right next to Demon’s Souls as a significant launch title. This ten-hour adventure is a nice spinoff title resembling that of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy where it has all of what you love from the original Marvel’s Spider-Man, but now with more Miles. Not to mention on PlayStation 5 you can select between a 60fps mode or an Ray-Tracing High Fidelity mode. There’s also a remastered version of the 2018 release of Marvel’s Spider-Man that comes packed in with the Ultimate Edition of Miles Morales. Astro’s Playroom is a surprisingly enjoyable packed-in game that’s slightly more than a two-hour tech demo for the DualSense and will invoke a ton of nostalgia for PlayStation fans. Finally, Sackboy A Big Adventure is Sumo Digital’s take on a fully-fledged Littlebigplanet platformer full with a story that has the comical antics we’ve known from the series — it looks to be the Knack of the PlayStation 5 launch, just hopefully better.

  • Godfall
  • Bugsnax
  • The Pathless

Then we have some third-party titles such as Counterplay Games’ Godfall which looks to offer a vibrant world ripe for cooperative fun. From the Octodad team comes Bugsnax, a whimsical world of whatever you eat you grow as a limb. And lastly from Giant Squid studios, the creators of Abzu, we have the gorgeous-looking The Pathless.


Outside of these exclusives (or console exclusives in some cases), there’s still a decent offering of third-party titles from mostly older releases:

The problem is that a number of launch titles have been pushed back. Games such as Destruction AllStars, Deathloop and Kena: Bridge of Spirits were all slated to be at launch or near launch but now have been pushed into 2021. There are some good entries for the holiday season, but as it stands, the launch lineup for 2020 is looking like the most lacking for any new console generation.

Backwards Compatibility

If there’s one thing Sony hasn’t exactly been dedicated towards over the last couple of generations, it has been backwards compatibility. There’s some merit to looking ahead instead of back, but when PlayStation 4 was one of the most-successful consoles ever, with over a billion games sold over the last seven years, it’s hard to deny the outpouring of gamers who want to continue to play what they’ve paid for. For Sony, their backwards compatibility methods are a step in the right direction. The vast majority of games from the PlayStation 4 are available to play on the PS5, and with the internal SSD, they will reduce load times by a decent margin, ranging from 2% to 50%. The graphical fidelity, from what we can tell, hasn’t really changed unless the developer release a patch for the game. Fortunately, in terms of performance, games will run and play like they did on the PS4, with many of them actually improving in framerate thanks to Sony’s Boost Mode. Having the ability to move your massive catalog of games to a newer, quieter system is what we had hoped for.

Similar to how Xbox is aided by Gamepass, Sony has their own offering to keep users gaming. Their PlayStation Plus Collection is a solid addition to the PlayStation 5 catalogue, allowing existing PS+ users to immediately get access to an additional number of games on their new console. A number of these games are even enhanced on the PlayStation 5, with games such as God of War running a little smoother and Days Gone supporting a dynamic 4K resolution running at 60fps, which is easily the best way to experience the zombie open shooter. This is a step in the right direction for Sony as it partially deflects the lack of exclusives, ensuring you’ll have a bunch of games to experience or re-experience until early to mid next year.


Closing Comments:

The PlayStation 5 is the console to get this holiday season if you’re looking to specifically play Demon’s Souls. The problem stems from a lack of games, and while it has them, most can be played on the PlayStation 4 as well. While they offer better fidelity, such as Spider-Man: Miles Morales having raytracing and 60fps modes, the number of true exclusives is minuscule. Astro’s Playground is a surprisingly enjoyable piece of software that’s included with the console, giving you a good idea of what the heavily-evolved controller is capable of. The backwards compatibility is really well done as some games have received framerate boosts, and with the load times are slightly lessened, any other improvements will be solely in the hands of the publishers through updates. With that said, we’re just thankful the vast majority of games from the PlayStation 4 do transfer over, as running them on a quieter and faster machine is without doubt the preferred way to play them. That’s not to mention the DualSense is one of the most evolutionary devices the PlayStation 5 offers, something that pushes the boundaries of what a controller can do.

Obviously we’re only at the beginning of the PlayStation 5’s life, but even then, it’s a lacking launch in comparison to the past. The system has more of a next-gen feel than its competition, with an improved user interface, an evolutionary controller and actual exclusives – as few as they may be, but whether or not it’s a must-have item is solely dependent on your passion for the brand. The PlayStation 5 is the console with the most promise, with the few games that demonstrate the next-gen features truly getting us excited for 2021 and beyond.